Earlier this week the Glory4gamers XTRA Cup Live Finals concluded with The Chavs crowned winners. The €5,000 LAN tournament came to a climax with four top European teams competing offline in the Glory4gamers studio in Paris. Its double-elimination bracket saw The Chavs cruise to victory with two clean wins, crowning them the best of the tier-two teams in Europe.
The Chavs were joined by Grand Danois, Dignitas, and Movistar Riders as the four teams to qualify through the online portion of the tournament. Despite the lack of attention for the tournament compared to its North American equivalents, the XTRA Cup represented some of the best teams in the region, all within the top 10 teams in Europe.
The Chavs entered the offline playoffs in the upper bracket as they had managed to qualify unbeaten, joined by Grand Danois. Despite a tight first map The Chavs took the series 2-0 then watched as Dignitas fought through the lower bracket, taking down Movistar Riders and then Grand Danois. The Grand Final saw The Chavs enter with a map advantage in the best-of-five match and again they closed it out by winning two maps, ending the entire tournament having lost only a single map to GamersOrigin in the online qualifiers.
The Chavs have been in an odd position for the last few months. They rose to become one of the best teams in Europe, but hit their stride after the first organisations had already flooded into the scene. It was also around the time Blizzard ambiguously announced the Overwatch League, prompting other key organisations to take a temporary step back. These factors were compounded by a lack of tournaments for The Chavs to prove themselves in and a trend of European rivals being exported for Korean or North American tournaments. The result is a powerful team that everybody should be familiar with, but few are.
After their first game at the XTRA Cup Live Finals, Kirby interviewed ChrisTFer, the main tank for The Chavs. They spoke at length about the European scene and how that situation has affected their team, bringing up some interesting insights. I got the opportunity to catch up with ChrisTFer after their win in Paris to speak about their team and the games at the event.
GGs @TeamDignitas we win 3-0 and win the xtra gaming LAN without dropping a map! Insanely happy that every member of the team stepped up— Chris Graham (@ChrisTFerOW) 28 January 2017
The Chavs began their XTRA Live Final matches with a close game against Grand Danois on Hollywood. They began on offense, setting a good time with a minute and a half left in their bank. They couldn’t hold off the attack from Grand Danois however as the Danes completed the map in overtime, sending it to a second round of timebank.
In the second round The Chavs pulled through and captured the limousine, winning Hollywood. “I think we were perhaps a bit overzealous in the first match, there were a lot of mistakes where we all tunnel visioned and split up,” ChrisTFer said, “something that stopped happening as we got more and more calm with the situation we were in.” They took the series with a strong display on Lijiang Tower.
“We made some mistakes in game one but managed to get over the line, I think second game we played much better,” he reflected. The second game saw The Chavs look more dominant against an arguably better opponent, as they dismantled Dignitas on Watchpoint: Gibraltar and then Lijiang Tower.
Speaking about that match, he highlighted the initial defense as a pivotal point: “When you full hold your opposition on first during map number 1 it helps settle any nerves you had going in, and puts all the pressure on the opposition.” ChrisTFer also highlighted a factor he thinks may have played a role outside of the game server, saying, “As the other teams will testify we get insanely hyped at LAN, and I think it is insanely helpful in those situations. I think the fact that both teams could hear each other might have played a factor, as there is nothing more likely to cause tilt than making a mistake and hearing the opposition go wild.”
It was the first LAN that The Chavs had played together since forming, though most of their players had LAN experience before in Overwatch at small UK events. “I don’t think any of us choked at all at the LAN and I think that is a major factor in performing at these kind of events. I think we as a team are extremely competitive and hate to lose,” he said “so I think this is a big factor as to why we tend to perform well in pressure situations.”
When asked specifically about the ‘hype’ and atmosphere that The Chavs players bring to their matches, Chris expanded: “Tomzey is probably the most hyped person I have ever met and it becomes even more in LAN, he is literally screaming in excitement after every fight we win (with some harmless trashtalk mixed in) and I think the team feed off it."
Lost my voice because of LAN, rip scrims— Chris Graham (@ChrisTFerOW) 30 January 2017
“The hype when we play cups isn't necessarily related to how we are performing at the time, it is more an identification of the situation we are at, and the importance of winning. Whenever we lose a fight in scrims we normally comment on it, and if it happens more than once we will get slightly negative, but every fight we lose in a cup we instantly all say ‘ok no problem focus on next’. And whenever we win a fight we try to get as hyped up as possible.”
For one member of the team, it was their first time at an offline event: Snizzlenose, renowned Roadhog for The Chavs and a frequent cause of anguish for opponents. I questioned ChrisTFer on how Snizzlenose had performed and how important it was to get that experience under a player’s belt.
“I was amazed how well he managed to play,” he replied. “I remember my first LAN back in October and I think I let the situation overwhelm me, and I almost autopiloted.” He agreed with the general consensus that it becomes easier to concentrate and play at a high level after that first experience, advising upcoming teams, “I personally think if you are serious about being a team you should look for any opportunity to play LANs if possible, as the game is significantly different in a pressure situation like that.”
To not choke on your first LAN you just have to keep hooking people.— Erik Hedåker (@Snizzlenose) 28 January 2017
The Chavs are particularly known for their strong triple tank playstyle; Snizzlenose on Roadhog and Fischer on flex dps form the offense core alongside Sev on Zarya, while ChrisTFer is the main tank for the team supported by Shaz on Ana and Tomzey calling from Lucio. ChrisTFer thinks their main strengths are a “perfect mix of personalities and play style”.
“We have Snizzle and Shaz who are both in my opinion top 2 at their specific heroes in europe,” he offered, “we then have fischer and sev who are both exceptionally consistent and flexible, allowing us to facilitate the carries as best as possible. Finally we have me and Tomzey who carry a lot of the burden of comms and strategy whilst trying to keep everyone calm and focused at all times possible.” Interestingly, ChrisTFer think that teams with six all-star players would struggle, and rosters require a balance to bring out the best in their star talents.
The XTRA Live Finals were played on a different patch to the qualifiers, one which went live four days before the LAN began. It brought nerfs to D.Va and Ana, also changing the way Roadhog’s hook works. It required all of the teams to rethink their approach to the event, and The Chavs were no exception.
“About 2 weeks before the LAN we had a decision to make: stick to what we know ‘til after lan or gamble and focus on playing as much dive as possible,” Chris disclosed, “it became a very tricky decision to make because we were struggling very hard vs ex-reunited and Rogue, losing almost 80% of scrims when they were playing dive. We tried to take what we could from the scrims and slowly found ourselves figuring out the key to beating it with triple tank, which is why we ultimately decided to stick to x3 tank on LAN.”
I asked if, now the immediate goal of the Live Finals were over, The Chavs would find themselves experimenting more with the new patch and dive compositions. “Yes,” ChrisTFer replied, “we are going to train very hard to try to figure out dive. I think our struggles stem from perhaps not fundamentally understanding dive, and of course because we are trying against the best dive teams in the world.” An interesting point, given that many overlook Rogue’s reappearance in the European scene since returning from IEM GyeonGi in Korea.
He continued, adding, “If we play it enough in scrims we will probably figure out the concept of it, and more importantly how to beat it. I think the ability to play both tanky comps and dive is exceptionally important in tournament games so we will do our best to be able to play both as good as we can.”
Since Rogue and ex-REUNITED returned from Korea, scrim opportunities have been significantly healthier for European teams but the tournament circuit is still barren compared to the North American or Korean equivalent. The Chavs chose to practise as hard as possible for the few tournaments that were available and found success in them. Their attitude was fairly positive despite the inequality, but there were hints of envy looking across the pond. “I must admit to being jealous at the NA teams that get to play in 100k tournaments somewhat regularly”, ChrisTFer admitted.
One of the most apparent ways it has affected The Chavs is evident from their name; the team has been playing for months without an organisation and any financial support behind them. Four of The Chavs are still playing Overwatch full-time without this support, while Snizzlenose and ChrisTFer are balancing it with education but waiting for an opportunity to jump into Overwatch with both feet.
“I think it’s fair to say that it has been tough on certain players, “ Chris said, “specifically those who are playing the game full time without getting paid. A lot of 'tilt' that might come in scrims I honestly believe is due to potential financial struggles this has left certain players in. We have always believed that we will eventually get a suitable org, and that we are good enough for one.”
Plz hire those players, i don't understand how #TheChavs are still org-less— Tenicron (@Tenicron) 28 January 2017
Not being backed by an organisation has affected The Chavs primarily in two ways, he told me. Within the game it made top players reluctant to scrim The Chavs; this changed once they impressed the top teams with their skill, but the second effect is apparently harder to shift.
Without an organisation, brand recognition, and coverage, The Chavs have been overlooked for openings they deserve. “The worst was probably when the EU AMM came around and we did not receive an invite even though we felt we were a lot stronger than the majority of teams,” ChrisTFer said; “When you are unsigned you are looking for any opportunity to prove yourselves and there was unlikely to be any better then the AMM, so we were pretty upset about not getting an invite.”
Having larger open tournaments in Europe, such as the recent North American Winter Premiere, would also solve this problem. For tournament organisers though there are issues of uncertainty with Blizzard’s plans for 2017 adding to the problem of smaller European viewership.
Have The Chavs seen evidence that this slump for Europe could have long-term repercussions? Not yet, says ChrisTFer. “As of right now the EU scene is exceptionally strong despite the current situations, however if the top teams start to migrate over to NA the overall strength of EU could drop to the point where it will be difficult to improve without moving to NA.”
“I guess the greatest fear is that OWL gets announced in NA and there is literally nothing left to play for in EU for the next 6-10 months. It will become very difficult for non salaried european teams to practice as much as would be required which could lead to a lot of the players taking a break or even quitting as it is unreasonable to put your life on hold hoping to get into the next season of OWL.”
One area he does think has been affected by the lack of tournaments and money in the scene is roster stability. The reduced incentive to build synergy within teams has led to rosters being upgraded in terms of skill regularly, he believes, something that is “risky” to try in North America due to frequent competition.
In an effort to increase my own knowledge of the European scene I asked ChrisTFer about the other teams and how he thought, from a player’s perspective, the competition stacked up. Focusing on his experiences of playing teams since the new patch, he told me that the new Rogue and ex-REUNITED rosters look very strong, while NiP “is still insane”. He rates The Chavs between third and fifth in Europe at the moment, alongside Misfits and ex-REUNITED, with Rogue and NiP at the top.
“Outside the top 4/5, I think Riders, LDLC, and Dignitas have potential to do very well if given the opportunity,” he continued, “as for Grand Danois and b0nkers they are both playing pretty well at the moment, I could see some interesting games between them and the lower rated sponsored teams however I don't think they are ready to compete with the tier 1 teams just yet.”
“The fact that these teams have had very little opportunity to play competitively vs world class teams is a shame for them. However as we have proved if you stick with your roster and work hard you can climb through the ranks quickly and become a legitimate force.”
As for North American teams? “Maybe I'm biased,” he began, “but I would feel confident playing any NA team close if not beating them, with the exception of EnVy who are obviously world class.”
ChrisTFer accepted that it is difficult to compare across regions so did not want to put The Chavs in a certain position on the Western rankings. “I think it’s probably fair to say that EU teams think that they are better, and NA teams think they are better, and without international LANs it’s going to be difficult to say fairly,” He stated; “One thing I will say is whenever I watch NA tournaments featuring the tier 2/3 NA teams, I notice a lot of things that would get punished by the EU equivalent.”
After questioning ChrisTFer for over an hour I figured I should finally let him go, but I wasn’t willing to release my captive subject without addressing something he had said in an interview with Kirby days before.
At the XTRA Cup Live Finals, Chris had disclosed that his team had not paid for the travel all on their own, despite being - by all outward appearances - an unsponsored team. Clearly something is being cooked up behind the scenes, so what does the future hold for The Chavs?
“As for now, the future is looking bright. Hopefully we can have something to announce in the coming month or two,” he replied.
There you have it. Keep your eyes firmly on The Chavs.